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Rhonda
Gretna, Virginia

California

14 days to travel in CA...need advice on an itinerary please

Hi...I'm new on this site and hoping I can get some straight forward answers. My husband and I hope to fly to CA (from VA) for about 14 days.  (In Sept.) We want to see all we can in this time frame but don't want to be driving too much or feel rushed. Is it best to stay in one area (we would chose northern) or could we see the "high spots" from one end to the other simply sight-seeing?

Interested in redwoods, Big Sur, San Francisco, perhaps Tahoe, etc. -Only time out West was Vegas and AZ a few years ago. Want to see all we can but relaxation too. Please advise! I need to move on this I know..need answers and itinerary asap to do reservations and flight. ..please help..thank you!


4 Answers

top answer by
John from Carlsbad (California)

Welcome to Trippy, Rhonda. 

I would suggest you fly into San Francisco and stay in the city for at least 3 or 4 days at the beginning of your trip.  A car is more of a burden than a benefit there, so rent the car when you leave.  San Francisco has a lot to see.  From there, rent a car and head north.  If you are interested in visiting wineries, stay 2 or 3 nights in the wine country.  I prefer Sonoma County and Mendocino County over Napa Valley because they are more laid back, but that is just my opinion.  Take a look at all of them.  Healdsburg is a charming place to stay a few nights with a nice assortment of good restaurants, hotels, and B&B's.  From there, I'd recommend driving through the Anderson Valley to the Mendocino Coast.  The Anderson Valley is an underdeveloped wine area, very scenic, and you will drive through redwoods just before you reach the coast.  Take a look at the Albion River Inn,for great views, a relaxed atmosphere and a very good restaurant.  I've stayed in their least to most expensive rooms and thought they were all wonderful.  It is not inexpensive, but excellent breakfasts are included and the setting is simply magnificent.  The town of Mendocino just to the north is charming.  From there, you can drive up the coast on Highway 1 and cut over on the windy road to Highway 101 near Leggett , where you can do a quick drive through a giant redwood at Drive-Thru Tree ParkThe 101 in this area is known as the Redwood Highway and there are numerous opportunities to see Redwoods.  I would recommend you drive up to the Avenue of the Giants Southern Entrance and along the avenue for the best views of the giant redwoods.  After that, it depends on how many nights you have left and how much you want to drive.  If you have time left, you could drive to Lake Tahoe, which is certainly worthwhile.  You could probably fly back from Reno-Tahoe International Airport.  If you have taken it slow, return to San Francisco to fly home from there.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Francisco (city)
  2. Sonoma County (region)
  3. Mendocino County (metro area)
  4. Napa Valley (attraction)
  5. Healdsburg (city)
  6. Anderson Valley (attraction)
  7. Albion River Inn (restaurant)
  8. Mendocino (city)
  9. Leggett (city)
  10. Drive-Thru Tree Park (attraction)
  11. Avenue of the Giants Southern Entrance (attraction)
  12. Lake Tahoe (attraction)
  13. Reno-Tahoe International Airport (attraction)
4 thankscomments (2)


answered first by
Polly from Washington, DC

Hi Rhonda - welcome to trippy!

The American west is the perfect place for a road trip and what constitutes too much time in the car varies greatly from person to person. I'd look at several options and decide what you guys feel would be right for you!

I don't know if I'd advise day-tripping from one location - presumably San Francisco - as the Bay area is rather expensive for a long stay, and it's nice not to have to turn around and head back the same day. Instead, I'd do one of two things...

The more packed schedule would be a big loop. You'd spend a few days in San Francisco and a day in Napa before heading north to Humboldt Redwoods State Park or Redwood National Park. Then I'd cut across to Tahoe, maybe stopping for a night near Lassen Volcanic National Park. After a few days in Lake Tahoe, I'd cut down to Yosemite National Park, then across to Big Sur. This would be a busy schedule (only about two days per place), but very doable.

If the above makes you feel tired just reading it, the other option would be to save Lake Tahoe for another trip and stick to the coast this time around. I'd split the trip in thirds - about four days in the San Francisco area, four days along the northern coast, and four days around Big Sur. There's enough to see to keep you occupied, and it would be a much more relaxing pace.

Whatever you decide, have a great trip and have fun travel-planning!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Francisco (city)
  2. Napa (city)
  3. Humboldt Redwoods State Park (attraction)
  4. Redwood National Park (attraction)
  5. Lassen Volcanic National Park (park)
  6. Lake Tahoe (attraction)
  7. Yosemite National Park (park)
  8. Big Sur (city)
4 thankscomments (4)


answered by
Sonya from United Kingdom

I was there last year, we were doing a road trip around CA, we stayed at Livermore/Dublin (California) area, east of Oakland which allowed us to leave the car and hop on the train into San Francisco. We saw the city from a hop on hop off tourist bus, great way to see everything including the golden gate. 

This way we were able to see other things in the area, Sequoia National Park was a good alternative to redwoods that are much further north.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Livermore (city)
  2. Dublin (California) (city)
  3. Sequoia National Park (park)
2 thanks


answered by
Laurie from Santa Monica

California is gorgeous! I've lived here thirty years and still marvel at the diversity of its landscape. Some scattershot suggestions: the hop on/hop off bus in San Francisco is a fantastic way to see the city. Alcatraz requires advance reservations. If Hearst Castle is still doing night tours in September and you happen to be driving through, definitely check it out. Docents in period dress stroll from room-to-room throughout the tour, discussing issues of the day. Santa Barbara has Spanish architecture in a beautiful setting and their ban on billboards + their rule that no building be taller than the highest church steeple has kept the town's original character. If you like outlet shopping, there are many outlets for any CA roadtripper. In wine country, Ventura County, and near Palm Springs. If you get out to Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park is amazing, just to be somewhere that like looks exactly as it did millions of years ago (minus the road through.) Enjoy!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Francisco (city)
  2. Alcatraz (attraction)
  3. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  4. Santa Barbara (city)
  5. Ventura County (metro area)
  6. Palm Springs (city)
  7. Joshua Tree National Park (park)
1 thanks




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